The cost of failing to do maintenance

Reliability is the outcome of investments made to design and maintain equipment effectively. Reliability is the outcome of investments made to design and maintain equipment effectively.

WITH South Africa’s limited economic growth over the past few years, businesses have had to look very hard at saving wherever possible.

Unfortunately, many of the so-called “savings” are not savings at all. When it comes to factory or plant maintenance, CEO’s and CFO’s make decisions that are often short term cost driven.

Operating at minimum cost and maximum productivity, does not mean decreasing the money spent on proactive maintenance programs. Reliability is the outcome of investments made to design and maintain equipment effectively. Knowing the importance of proactive lubrication and lubrication in the overall scheme of maintenance that pertains to manufacturing, fleet maintenance of trucks or off-road vehicles or whatever kind of industrial environment you’re in, is more important than most would like to believe.

Managing your equipment, with an integrated maintenance program and reliability strategy, keeping track of the health of that equipment, why it breaks down, what part of it breaks down, all this kind of knowledge is critical to reducing maintenance costs. It’s about keeping a track record on these matters and also, at the same time planning when various maintenance functions are due and to schedule this maintenance accordingly. It’s about contamination control and failure analysis. Lubricant storage and handling and dispensing is often the work of people that are not very knowledgeable about lubricants, they often do a poor job of these various activities and this often results in using either the wrong oil or they may use an oil that’s become contaminated in storage, before they ever use it.

“Some of the most common lubrication problems I have encountered, over the past 25 years throughout industry, could have been solved. The cost of not having the knowledge or expertise required in order to recognize and solve these problems has been astonishing. The problem of limited project management support, is sometimes the reason maintenance staff are too busy putting out fires, to develop an action plan. Often there is no business case developed and therefore management do not buy-in to provide funding or budgets,” says Freddi Stafford, Managing Director for SOS Oil, based in Observatory, Cape Town.

However, by far, the largest contributing factor towards these unnecessary losses is due to the lack of training and education, which results in a lack of knowledge or understanding of lubricants and their specific chemistry, characteristics and functions.

Even the most basic fundamental knowledge is absent. Lubricant research, development and application are all accessible through a qualified lubricant specialist. “Unfortunately, by far, the vast majority of people I have met over the past 25 years that have been in positions where this knowledge is critical, have possessed a limited understanding of tribology, specifically lubrication. Actually, the level of knowledge in this regard, for personnel with such huge responsibility, is mostly of great concern. Even more worrying is that they do not have the time, interest nor the inclination to complete the necessary training. Important decisions are being made, that incur huge financial losses, due to this lack of knowledge,” insists Stafford.

“It has been established that the application of tribology can save between 1% and 1.4% of an industrial country’s gross national product (GNP) for expense of research and development of an average of 1.50th once-only expenditure for an annual benefit derived after two years. In other words, for every *R10,000 invested in tribology research and development, savings of *R500,000 per year could reasonably be expected in two years’ time – not a bad investment, one might say!” - Professor H Peter Jost.

(*Converted from US Dollars to Rands at current exchange rates.)

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